Guam – The U.S. Coast Guard in coordination with the Republic of Palau Division of Maritime Law Enforcement and the Royal Australian Navy Maritime Surveillance Advisor partnered to provide assistance to the Republic of Palau, rescuing ten mariners from the Philippine Sea, 90 nautical miles northeast of Palau.
The mariners in distress originated their voyage on a 60-foot traditional sailing canoe traveling from Palau to the outer islands of Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. The vessel had ten crewmembers onboard, including students from the Palau Community College; Palauan, Japanese, and US Citizens.
Using a satellite telephone, the canoe contacted officials at the Community College at 6:30 am Chamorro Standard Time (ChST), on 04 March, and indicated the vessel was breaking apart and sinking.
The Palau Community College officials contacted the appropriate Palauan Agencies in accordance with their National Search and Rescue Plan, who requested assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard in accordance with a long-standing Memorandum of Understanding under the Compact of Free Association.
The Coast Guard launched the Apra Harbor, Guam based Coast Guard Cutter Washington to assist in this case, and requested long range aircraft support from the U.S. Navy’s Combined Task Force 72, located in Kadena, Japan. The Coast Guard also identified a commercial cargo vessel, the Panamanian flagged vessel HYUNDAI UNITY, transiting in the vicinity of the distress location, and contacted the vessel asking for their assistance. The vessel diverted from their course and maneuvered towards the distress position.
The crew of the HYUNDAI UNITY spotted the individuals at 11:32 am ChST and began the process of recovering all of the crew members. The USCGC WASHINGTON will be meeting the commercial vessel at the distress location and will be transporting the crew members to Palau.
This successful response was greatly assisted by the foresight and planning of the vessel crew, who filed a detailed float plan prior to departing, and maintained a full suite of lifesaving equipment, including a satellite telephone and personal flotation devices for every person on board.